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CCofGB - Features

Interview with Star Trek actress Marina Sirtis

Paula Hammond

Posted on 09 Oct 2008

Actress Marina Sirtis
Actress Marina Sirtis
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London-born, Marina Sirtis has been making men go weak at the knees since her first role as the sultry Faustina in ‘Raffles’. But it’s as Star Trek The Next Generation’s dark-eyed empath, Deanna Troi, that she really made her mark.

How did you get into acting?
I always wanted to be an actress. My mum told me that when I was about three, I used to stand up on the seat on the bus and entertain the other passengers and that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. So after school, instead of going off to university, I went to drama school and then into the theatre.

I heard that your parents really didn’t want you to act?
Oh yes! You see, to them, being an actor was like saying you were walking the streets at night! They weren’t very happy about it at all. It took until I got Star Trek for my mum to come around!

What was your first big break?
I got a job before drama school finished. I went off to Worthing Rep to play Ophelia and I spent a season there and then about six months after leaving drama school, I got my first telly role. So it started off really well. I just kind of jumped in and the work was there. It was fantastic.

How did you get the role in Star Trek?
I auditioned. I had six auditions. ‘Course, with every audition, you get more and more nervous because you know that you’re getting closer and closer. I wasn’t a big Star Trek fan. In fact, I didn’t really like sci-fi but it was a guaranteed 26 episodes and that would have been the best job I’d ever had at that point. The next six years were a bonus!

Did you have any idea what they wanted from the character or was it all your own interpretation?
After six auditions, I figured I was probably giving them what they wanted. After I got the job I did actually go and have a meeting with Gene Roddenberry and I said to him, ‘this is what I think about the character and her background’ and he went, ‘you’re doing great - just keep on doing what you’re doing’.

Was it hard to be constantly fit and trim so that you could squeeze into those skin-tight uniforms?
It was, yes! And sometimes I was more trim than other times and I would get calls from the producers telling me to lose weight, because in Hollywood everyone’s so skinny!

But they [the uniforms] were unforgiving and after lunch, of course, they didn’t look as good as they did first thing in the morning!

Marina Sirtis autographed photo imageYou do a lot of conventions. Do you like them?
I do! I like the conventions where I get the chance to do a Q&A with the audience because I come from the theatre so for me it’s my live-audience fix. The ones where you’re just sitting signing autographs all weekend are a little dull, but when you get to go on stage, it makes it all worthwhile.

Have you had any strange requests from fans over the years?
It does happen. The last time was when a young lady asked me to sign her arm and she came back the following day and she’d had my signature tattooed on, so I don’t do body parts any more!

What do you think about all the Trek collectables?
It’s very strange to see a figurine of oneself. They tend not to look like me at all; it’s almost like seeing a distant relative. It’s so strange, but the first thing I think about is all the money I’m not getting from the merchandising!

Do you have a favourite TNG episode?
I think my favourite episode is one that I’m not actually in very much. It was called ‘Measure of a Man’ when we put Data on trial to see if he was a sentient being and I thought that was a perfect Star Trek episode... Would have been better if I’d have been in it more... but there you go!

You always look like you were having such fun on set. Were you?
Well, we laughed for seven years. We had a director in the first season who directed two shows and refused to ever come back because we were too rowdy! So that kinda tells you what we were like. We were very noisy, we laughed all the time and we’re all still best friends, which I think is a testament to how well we got on.

Jonathan Frakes seems like a good laugh...
Jonathan Frakes is a force of nature! He really is. He burst into the make-up trailer on the first day and set the tone for the next seven years.

What do you think about the new movie?
I have mixed feelings about it. I’m not sure about going backwards in time, but on the other hand I hope it’s a huge success because then it’ll resuscitate interest in Star Trek and that does everybody good.

Has Trek been good for your career or has it typecast you as the ‘exotic alien’?

Well, I think the good outweighs the bad. Any name recognition is good and people now know who I am I think any time you’re in a series, whether its Star Trek or not, at the end people do tend to regard you as that character and you just have to be patient and let time go by.

You’ve done quite a lot of sci-fi since Trek - does that mean you’re warming to it?
Well, Next Gen is kinda the flagship show for everything sci-fi, so you find that you’re asked to be on other sci-fi shows because of it. I did one film which was sci-fi this year but that was the first one in a long time.

What was the film?
Actually Walter Koenig wrote and produced it. There’s one alien in it, so it’s not like Star Wars or anything! I actually play the Deputy Attorney General of the United States so I’m a bad guy, a mean lawyer, which was fantastic.

You speak fluent Greek. Have you used your languages in your work?
I haven’t actually. I’ve played lots of nationalities because of the way I look. I’ve had to learn languages too. I had to learn Farsi and Arabic last year. I’ve played Italian too, but Greek ... gosh, when was the last time I used my Greek? I can’t remember, but it would be nice to go and work in Greece and use that finally.

I hear that you’re planning to go back to the theatre?
I am. I’m staying in England for a while now and I’m giving my English agent strict instructions, especially now Patrick’s doing so well, I’m really jealous and I want to get back on stage. Hopefully something will happen soon.

* This interview is published in the October 2008 issue of TV Film Memorabilia magazine.

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